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Friday, June 9, 2023

Biggest narcotics bust in Bharat off the coast of Kochi

Last Saturday, Bharat saw the largest narcotic drug bust the country has ever seen near the coasts of Kochi. Narcotics worth Rs 25,000 crore were seized from the Kochi coast on Saturday. The final price was determined after the bust was inspected at Kochi port. The sheer volume meant that authorities could complete their work only by Monday evening.

2,525 kg of methamphetamine was seized from the high seas during a search conducted following a tip-off. The operation has been initiated with inputs from sources developed by the Naval Intelligence and the NCB. The narcotics were packed in several layers of plastic in 134 waterproof sacks.

Naval authorities also arrested a Pakistani national named Zubair (29). The accused claimed he was from Iran. He added about four tons of drugs were on board.

The narcotic drugs at Kochi (Images courtesy The Hindu)

National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigators found that the Pakistan mothership was headed to deliver narcotics to Lakshadweep and Sri Lanka. Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is also probing the incident. Some inscriptions in the drug packets included the Scorpion and Rolex watch brands. This led investigators to believe the narcotics belonged to the Haji Salim Network, Pakistan’s notorious drug trafficking ring.

Pakistani inscriptions on seized narcotic drugs (Images courtesy Malayala Manorama)

NCB officials informed that the value of the drugs seized from the ship off the Kochi coast is not Rs 15,000 crore, but Rs 25,000 crore. After ascertaining the quantity and quality of the narcotics, they released information about the market price of the confiscated drugs. The methamphetamine (also called crystal meth) seized in Kochi is in the purest form of white crystal, therefore fetching a hefty price.

After being chased by our Navy vessels and helicopters, drug smugglers abandoned their mothership and escaped. The narcotic cargo is neatly packed in three layers of plastic, and the smugglers sunk the rest before they took off. Our investigation teams are searching to recover the drugs left by them before the smugglers return.

Zubair admitted to the NCB that the narcotics were manufactured in labs in Jiwani, Pakistan. Jiwani is a town and commercial port located along the Gulf of Oman in the Gwadar District of the Balochistan province in Pakistan and borders Iran. 

Media reports claimed that Zubair told investigators that there were six Pakistanis with him in the mothership. Zubair had earlier smuggled drugs for Haji Salim’s network to Sri Lanka and Maldives. NCB is verifying the information received from him regarding drug trafficking.

There were two speedboats on board the mothership. Zubair was taken into custody after following one such boat, and the vehicle was also confiscated. The rest of the smugglers escaped in the second speedboat.

These Pakistani carriers are suspected of hiding in the uninhabited islands surrounding Lakshadweep. The search for survivors from the mothership has intensified. Bharatiya navy and coastguard vessels are combing the region.

Lakshadweep has a thin population. Mainland Kerala is awash with narcotics that are slowly but surely affecting the local youth. Drug-related crimes are on the steep rise all over the state. Were these narcotics headed for Bharat?

On Saturday, materials taken from the mother ship, including the recovered sacks, the detained individual, the intercepted boat, and some other salvaged items, were transferred to Mattancherry Wharf in Kochi and given to NCB for further action.

“The modus operandi is to halt the mother ship at a particular point at which the crew in the ship receives a message about the boat to which the drug is to be offloaded and its timing. Since the mother ship has been intercepted, there is no information on any boat or person supposed to deliver it. The consignment has been meant for Bharat, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. More arrests in the case are likely,” Sanjay Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General (Operations), NCB, told a press conference here on Saturday.

On Monday, the Mattanchery court in Kochi remanded Zubair for fourteen days. It is also reported that he is trying to evade the investigation team by not answering questions correctly. Meanwhile, the NCB is expected to file a detailed custody application to interrogate Zubair.

Haji Salim heads a Pakistan ISI-backed drug mafia based in Afghanistan. He trades narcotic drugs in Bharat, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Gulf countries. Haji Salim has a clear role behind several infiltration attempts in Jammu and Kashmir in collaboration with the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani spy agency ISI. He also has links with Dawood Ibrahim.

Last October, HinduPost reported how NCB agents intercepted an Iranian fishing boat off the coast of Kochi and found 200 kg of Afghan heroin. An official release stated that six smugglers were detained and brought to Kochi on the ship. Those detained included Pakistani and Iranian nationals. Haji Salim’s name popped up in that case, too, and in several other bulk seizures of narcotic drugs.

The latest seizure was part of Operation Samudragupta, targeting maritime trafficking of narcotics from Afghanistan. This is the 3rd major seizure effected by NCB concerning Maritime trafficking through the southern route in the last one and half years. 

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